Romans 8 is a discussion about purpose. Although we pull Romans 8:28 out of this context in order to make refrigerator magnets and bumper stickers, to devotionalize Scripture that should be as practical as eggs for breakfast, the weight of Paul’s words rests upon the symphonic orchestration of All toward the fulfillment of God’s purpose, through people passionate about God and positioned, ordained, assigned, and chosen for that purpose.
The sights and sounds of birthing language fill the discussion with groaning and exertion, pressure and release, passionate pathos and eventual glory, present and future.
Paul certainly has “ultimates” in mind. Creation’s greatest birthing hasn’t occurred. Neither has ours since Paul clarifies this will provide us a glorified body that no man now possesses except Jesus. However, the discussion doesn’t isolate future events from present processes as if nothing about the present process produces purpose; quite the contrary, Paul draws upon the scope and framework of “ultimates” to describe and properly identify what is going here and now. Such prophetic parallel is common to prophetic language in every era of history.
Romans 8:17 – “We are children, therefore we are God’s heirs and equal heirs with Christ. We certainly share His sufferings in order to share His glory.”
That is both future and present because both suffering and glory are here and now while reaching and progressing toward ultimate passion and eternal glory. Comparing pathos with glory isn’t an even measurement system because you can’t measure one or the other with the same ruler or scale. The proportions of suffering and the proportions of glory belong to separate conditions, natural and spiritual.
Paul introduces this comparison as the basis for the complete discussion of purpose. The process that produces purpose also produces pain. “Sympascho” combines “acted upon” and “together with,” translated, “suffer with.” The sense of experiencing something intensely, passionately, hence, sharing this intense experience together, comes through in Paul’s meaning.
We share His experiences in order to experience His glory. “Shared spiritual experience” marks people of prophetic pregnancy partnering to produce purpose. Creation is pregnant with purpose. We are pregnant with personal purpose. We can become pregnant with God’s purposes so that we can give birth to them through shared spiritual experience. The word can describe an intense experience, in this case, the birthing process including labor pains, stretching, and releasing what we are carrying.
The additional compound, syndoxasthomen, coined here by Paul to describe the resulting spiritual condition that results from birthing or fulfilling purpose, means, “joined in being approval or receiving approval.”
Of course, the ultimate sense stands as a towering backdrop to this discussion, as Philippians 3:10, 11 says. Yet, the present experience and the future ultimate walk together because we know Him now but not as we will know Him ultimately. The present reality moves us toward the ultimate reality we cannot experience without personal, eternal completion of redemption. We don’t have the glorified body that He has: “He alone has immortality.” However, we do share spiritual experience here and now with Jesus because of the Resurrection, as well as, the shareholder of His sufferings and the conformity we share with His death. Any effort to make these phrases totally futuristic and ultimate does injustice to Paul’s revelation of spiritual reality believers experience here and now. In other words, both experiences add to one another; they do nothing to diminish one another.
Note the wording of verse 18, especially the word, mellousan, “about to happen, sure to happen, intend to,” translated “intend, propose, would certainly, delay, come about, almost.”
Paul is saying something about “now” shared spiritual passion that produces “about to happen, almost there but intended” shared spiritual approval that will be revealed. Without doubt we have the fuller context of many Scriptures to assure us this refers to ultimate and eternal experience, but we cannot separate this discussion from Paul’s here and now how things work in the spirit, clarity of which comes as he walks us through this discussion.
The word, apokaradokia, “attentive or focused expectation” has within it a sense of something about to happen that grabs the attention and focus of passion: the intense present experience happens because it produces the expected “what’s coming next.” The compound word carries within it the sense of being intensely focused, absorbed, and engaged in the present process or experience at the exclusion of other considerations until what is expected occurs.
Paul refers metaphorically to Creation carrying this intense focus as it awaits someone who can produce its inherent purpose: God’s sons, the heirs of God and equal heirs with Christ. Creation’s focus is upon the people pregnant with purpose! Paul leads us directly to this understanding in verse 28 because God is symphonically orchestrating All together to produce purpose through those with His passion.
Paul mentions the first limitation to the fulfillment of purpose: Creation’s futility, that without God’s heirs, Creation lacks purpose since God made it for His heirs. That Creation’s can never produce its own purpose. Creation has purpose, but Creation cannot produce purpose until God’s heirs groan. Ultimately, this means the Revelation of Jesus Christ can bring the fullness of Creation’s purpose, but it also means that God births purpose here and now through His heirs.
Creation’s groans together and travails together. Again, Paul coins words to express this reality. The term “groans together” speaks of deep sighs. The term, stenazo, means the blast a horse makes through its nostrils, a violent exhale. Jesus did this twice on His way to raise Lazarus from death. Creation has a violent exhale together with someone else.
Creation’s travail or childbirth labor also has the word “together” attached by means of the prefix. In “labor together with” someone else. The “someone else” seems to be “all Creation.” That is, everything God created is in a state of giving birth, travailing groans, focused upon what is poised to happen that will give birth to purpose.
The “groaning together” seems to indicate that All groans and childbirth labor reminding us that Jesus died, rose again, and ascended in authority to sit at the Father’s right hand and restore All He created. The restoration is what is being birthed, and the purpose of All is what is being restored. Creation is pregnant with unfulfilled purpose and groans with childbirth labor to produce that purpose.